The Sketch: He's got a moustache – and that's about it

They don't tell lies, these people, but that's very different from saying they tell the truth
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The Independent Online

He's got a surprisingly active personality for a sandbag. He's colourful for camouflage. When you put his predecessor, Geoff Hoon, beside him, Geoff suddenly looks vibrant and glamorous. Geoff suddenly looks like Prince. And not Prince Charles, I mean the artist formerly known as Prince.

Bob Ainsworth recalibrates all known forms of boredom. He is a man who thinks he is unpopular because he has a moustache. But it is the only discernible thing about him.

The House of Commons quite likes him. That reflects well on all concerned. The poor fellow may look like a ticket clipper for the Luton Gaumont in 1962, but he has some subtle virtues. He is modest, he may be honest, he is careful not to overstate the case. The sardonic Tory Bernard Jenkin praised him without irony. I can't say I'd throw myself into the line of fire shouting his name, but that's another story.

He came to announce a £900m increase in the defence budget while the National Audit Office says there'll be a £30bn cut. No doubt both are correct. They don't tell lies these people, but that's very different from saying they tell the truth.

A small example from the hour before. Alistair Darling was saying that such and such class of person was going to be £37 better off. Then he quickly retracted that and rephrased it as "will have their incomes supplemented by £37". What's the difference? There must be one. Possibly they'd have their incomes supplemented, but their benefits cut by the same amount.

In the same way, Bob announced a new era of plenty by implementing a clever austerity.

He told us of a whole new fleet of helicopters arriving in Afghanistan in a few years' time – when all our soldiers will have been recalled.

It sounded perfectly plausible, what we could pretend to understand. There was much reprioritising going on (it's what cuts are called in Pashtu). Lots more Huskys and Jackals but fewer Chihuahuas and Poodles. The REAPER capability will be doubled, but the SOWER force will be halved. The Urgent Operational Requirements will take precedence over the Marginal Deckchair Apology Programme.

The airbridge will be strengthened by Typhoons, unless it gets blown down by them. Improvements to the Defensive Aids Suites will be made so that the Prime Minister can be photographed in them without looking like a chump.

All well and good.

Paul Flynn distinguished himself by again asking an unanswerable question. He is small but deadly. Two Chinooks had been brought down by small arms fire, he said, and had been destroyed by our troops because they couldn't guard them for 36 hours while reinforcements arrived. Amazing, if true.

Bob stood there and said that Chinooks were "far from vulnerable aircraft".

You see? The sandbag has a hidden talent. It's compacted sand.